Nigerian Army and war against insurgency beyond slogan
By Isaac Ikpa
I don’t know him; may be, only a few Nigerians might have encountered him in the sanctuaries of books and there is no possibility that any Nigerian would ever have a chance of knowing him personally, but Frederick C. Blesse is a living legend or a genius of wisdom by conquering the essence of existence with his timeless philosophy. Blesse told his generation and those who cared to listen that “No guts; no glory.”
So, Nigerians are fervently asking; where are the guts of the incumbent Service Chiefs barely three months after they sauntered on the turf of anti-insurgencies and insurrections as Nigeria’s chief sentinels worthy of a glory? Could it be physical and intellectual fatigue this early in office? Or, are some gods or invisible celestial forces chasing their shadows to the point of disarmament?
It is incredible to the discomforting reality that we are now tethered to the mercy of armed gangs, in ceaseless torments and wails. We are now operating on a frequency akin to a typical village market in the countryside, directionless and unfocused. We are forced to sleep, wine and dine with terrorists and bandits near Abuja. Is it the new glory the incumbent Service Chiefs wish to earn for us and the nation?
Peace and security have eluded us. Our enclaves are seized by gunmen, known and unknown. The unending fires in Southern Nigeria, specifically, Southeast region have felled both civilians and soldiers. The infamous leader of the outlawed IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has changed the configuration of his rogue armed gangs several times and boldly dare the Nigerian Military. Yet, we appear helpless and rather enter a plea of bargain for mercy? Nigerian Military Chiefs, where is the glory?
We are only searching for the glory in the number of our kidnapped or abducted children by bandits in the Northwest; we only sight a tainted glory in the dingy dungeons of terrorists who have held our people captive. We are forced to sing lullabies to sword-brandishing hoodlums and miscreants; the plain rogues whose only strength is the uncontrolled thirst for bloodshed, in the excitement of feasting on our soldiers.
Asking further, I repeat; where is the glory of our Military or they’ve got no guts anymore? What else can we remember in this quagmire? The ceaseless bloodbath, arson and ashes staring us in the face? We are now standing on rooftops and selenic heights to inspect the ruins brought upon us, as our military fumbles and trembles before deadly enemies. Like romantic poets, Nigerian Military chiefs now are inured to sloganeering and have turned deaf ears to the lamentations around them.
I reminisced on what the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and leader of the counter-insurgency operations, Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru voiced out when he took the mantle of leadership from his predecessor in Abuja. Gen. Attahiru was stern and appeared like a ferociously devouring lion.
He told his eager audience and pledged to Nigerians on January 28th 2021 to sustain the giant strides of Nigerian Army as he experienced and inherited from his predecessor. Sadly today, Nigerians can neither sight the giant nor the strides in Attahiru’s actions. The spirit has waned unceremoniously. Sometimes, he appears more phobic than the civilian Nigerians he has the mandate to secure. Where are the guts, to transform into glory? Blesse was right!
The guts starts and ends with slogans of the Army Chief. Gen. Attahiru told another audience two months later in March 2021, at the opening of the Combined Chief of Army Staff First Quarter Conference and Nigerian Army Operations Retreat 2021 in Abuja that;
“I want to state that the Nigerian Army under my watch will remain resolute in decisively dealing with any threat confronting the country…I have directed that serious attention must be given to sustaining and improving the tempo in all ongoing Nigerian Army operations across the country…Commanders must therefore glean from my command philosophy to ensure that operational and administrative proficiency of Nigerian Army formations and units are sustained and improved upon.”
Sometimes, it is not good enough to overstretch limits of reasonableness in assessment of anybody on a hot seat, like where Attahiru has found himself. He is not in the game alone. His colleagues, other Service Chiefs are also there with him. But we cannot divorce the reality that Attahiru is the Chief honcho of counter-insurgency operations and together with his colleagues are absolutely lost on positive impressions in the terrorism combats in the country.
So, it’s a tedious task to attempt to discern Gen. Attahiru’s philosophy of “operational and administrative proficiency” now. Is it the proficiency which has allowed terrorists and bandits surround Abuja? Is it the proficiency of the everyday kidnapping of our children and adults all over the North or the closure of schools in Abuja because of the unexpected influx and infiltration of the capital city by truckloads of bandits?
In case Gen. Attahiru and the other Service Chiefs forget, I chose to remind them now. That at the point they took over from their predecessors, the Nigerian Military was only battling with Boko Haram insurgents/ ISWAP terrorists most dominantly on the fringes of Borno’s Lake Chad Basin area. Now, they are very close; the terrorists have come too close to us in courageous braggadocio.
We can no longer sight the guts to which any glory can be earned by the leaders of the counter-insurgency operations. Who will deliver us now? Nigerians now are only entertained with the barrage of slogans from the Military Chiefs than dexterity in warfare. Military Chiefs often assure us of protections from armed gangs; but the assurance consistently fails every time and everywhere.
Hesitantly, our Military Chiefs are compelling Nigerians to trust the haughty spews of Boko Haram’s factional leader, Abubakar Shekau more than their actions have so far espoused on the battlefield. Shekau boasted two days after these Military Chiefs came into office in a nine-minute video that the new Service Chiefs can’t outshine their predecessors in the fight against insurgency in the Northeast or elsewhere in Nigeria.
Shekau thundered; “(General) Leo Irabor, the head of the military, you should have sympathy for yourself, repent and convert to Islam. There is nothing you can do.” I am confused now! Whose words should I trust as stronger and bear any consequence on Nigerians? That’s why Generals Irabor and Attahiru must tighten their seat belts beyond sloganeering.
Nigeria is running out of patience with itself. Terrorists and bandits are making merriments; whilst Nigerians mourn and agonize in bloodshed, abductions and arsons. Shadows of bandits and terrorists loom large and freely roam our city centers, villages, communities, highways and every conceivable place. Courage has given way to numbing fear in our homes and offices.
One is infinitely perturbed watching the effeminate actions of the COAS and leader of the anti-insurgency operations, Gen. Attahiru and the new Service Chiefs in the theatre of war these three months. It is easier to conclude that Nigeria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are infinitely endangered. It has been donated to the terrorists under these new sheriffs or Military chiefs who initially, held so much promise, but have faltered terribly.
There is neither spark nor gusto in their deportments in the frontlines of the Northeast, Northwest or Southeast. Jubilant armed gangs have seized our peace and security, shattering dwelling places. We are pathetically tossed on bended kneels under these new masters of terror, as Gen. Attahiru gazes elsewhere.
Therefore, Nigerians make bold to demand that at this time in the history of insurgency in the country, there is the dire need for quick actions and not slogans; we want deafeningly positive results beyond the niceties of rehearsed speeches in the conference halls of Abuja and elsewhere. Will the slogans ginger the troops? Will it deliver the desired results? These and many more are the issues confronting us today as a nation. What ought to be done that has been left undone?
We abhor the demons of terror and the Nigerian Military should not foist them on us. We neither want to worship Abubakar Shekau nor bow to the praxis of the bloody swords of the ISIS-backed Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists commanded by Musab Al Barnewi. The armed bandits in the forests and caves of Zamfara, Katsina to Niger states have tormented us enough. Herdsmen should give us a break; and it is a break, which Gen. Attahiru must necessarily impose on them because he is not crowned for a feast of romance with insurgents in the theatre of war.
The rogues camouflaging as secession agitators in the Southeast must be reined in. We seek no protection from some gods; other than our Military. Gen. Attahiru and his colleagues, the Service Chiefs must wake up from slumber to redeem their names and salvage our fatherland in patriotic and true sacrificial service without further delay. We want to again, make bonfires of celebrations, as against the feasts of blood and whines. Like Blesse intoned, our Service Chiefs should immediately show us the guts and the glory now.
Chief Ikpa writes from Abuja.